beer glasses

Like it or not, Madison’s legacy bars are changing — changing hands, changing focus and changing their look. Where once were only cheese curds and big screen TVs are now dozens of craft beers on tap and self-consciously retro décor.

It’s hard to pin down exactly what separates a neighborhood tavern from a dive bar, sports bar or a Wisconsin supper club. Distinctions blur between bourbon old fashioneds and spicy chicken wings, but we know a neighborhood bar when we see one. The liquor is inexpensive. The regulars are loyal. The food, especially appetizers, is often fried, and you can top your burger eight different ways.

What does the tavern look like in 2016? What has been lost, and what have we gained? At the next Cap Times Talk at the High Noon Saloon on Tuesday, Sept. 20, food critic Lindsay Christians will moderate a discussion among veterans of Madison’s bar and restaurant scene about how concepts are evolving in some of the city’s beloved watering holes, from the décor to the menu. The panelists are:

• Ben Altschul, owner of the Tip Top Tavern

• Greg Frank, vice president of Food Fight Restaurant Group

• Howard Hayes, bartender at Genna’s Lounge

• Joe Klinzing, owner of the Off Broadway Drafthouse

• Josh Swentzel, co-owner of the Ohio Tavern

The event is free and will start with a meet-and-greet at 6:30 p.m. at the High Noon, 701 E. Washington Ave. The discussion itself will start at 7, ending after an hour or so.

This will be the 15th installment in our Cap Times Talks discussion series, which often take place at the High Noon. As an added bonus, we'll be giving away Cap Times T-shirts and sunglasses to people who sign up to be on our event email list.

We hope to see you in September. If you plan to go, please RSVP on our Facebook event page.